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Hullabaloo


Saturday, July 12, 2014

 
Protecting the delicate sensibilities of the religious corporation

by digby


Bill Moyers' show this week features a fascinating discussion about the Roberts court with sharp Supreme Court observers Linda Greenhouse and Dahlia Lithwick:



I confess I had not seen one rather shocking example of the court majority's self-serving insularity before Greenhouse pointed it out:
LINDA GREENHOUSE: I think you have to understand Hobby Lobby setting it alongside the other big religion case this term which is a case called Town of Greece-- Town of Greece against Galloway, which upheld the recitation of Christian prayers at the start of town board meetings in this upstate New York town.

And this practice was challenged by two non-Christian citizens who didn't feel like having to listen to these prayers when they showed up at the town board to conduct their business. And they argued and the lower court agreed that this was in effect an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause.

And Justice Kennedy, writing for the 5-4 majority that overturns the lower court and upholds the prayer, says, yeah, you know, these two plaintiffs were offended. But adults in America hear lots of offensive speech and basically just, you know, deal with it. I mean, a total lack of, you might say empathy, for the position of these plaintiffs who were being made to feel-- who claim they were being made to feel excluded as citizens in their community.

So take a look at that and then eight weeks later we come down with Hobby Lobby where the court's solicitude for the conscience claim of Hobby Lobby's owners not from having to hand out birth control to their employees but simply following a federal law that includes contraception within the employee health plan and the employees could decide to do whatever they wanted about that-- this attenuated claim was so worthy of being heard that the court was just dripping with empathy for Hobby Lobby's owners.
Basically the court says to non-Christian humans that the world is full of unpleasantness, just man-up and deal with it. But Christian corporations are delicate creatures whose sensibility is so fragile they must not even be required to have one penny of their precious money flow to a practice they find offensive. Their empathy only runs one way. (This is, of course, nonsense --- the corporate owners are cynically advancing a Christian Right agenda and everyone on the Court is fully aware of it.)

On the other hand, as Lithwick points out, they are simply incoherent when it comes to women. (In fact they both pointed out that the word "woman" or "women" rarely even came up in the majority opinion in Hobby Lobby.) She compared Hobby Lobby to McCullen, the abortion clinic buffer case:
DAHLIA LITHWICK: Right. I mean, there was a 35 foot buffer. This is Massachusetts, it comes up after a history of horrific clinic violence including shootings at clinics. And Massachusetts says, we don't know how to keep these women safe and how to keep public safety and health, beyond this 35 foot buffer. And it comes up as a free speech case.

But in the opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the solicitude for these sidewalk counselors and the implication that everyone who has ever stood outside a clinic to talk to a woman does so in gentle tones, with sweetness and light, and without any acknowledgment that there is a reason, a historic reason that these women needed to be protected on their way into the clinics is really another example of what Linda's ascribing as that over empathizing with one set of interests and almost total disregard for the interests of those women seeking abortions.

And I just think-- I track both of these as going back to, you know, Justice Anthony Kennedy, and the last time the court heard a major abortion case was so careful to say, we're just worried. Women are extra frail. And sometimes they regret their abortions. And we have to be super duper careful with getting them good information.

And it seems to me that that's kind of the pill from which so much of this sentiment that all of First Amendment law stops and all of religious freedom stops and everything in the constitutional architecture of this country stops when we're talking about women and their reproductive systems, it's so strange.
Essentially, this majority believes that women who have abortions are childlike fools who don't understand what they're doing and need to be "protected" from themselves. And the best way to do that is to allow anti-abortion protesters to get right up in their faces and scream about baby killing while waving pictures of bloody fetuses.

Basically we have five extremely powerful, conservative Catholic men issuing incoherent edicts about women based on religious superstition and lies, edicts rising from the assumption that women are imbeciles requiring protection from themselves which can best be accomplished through crude, aggressive bullying.

That Enlightenment stuff was really cool and all but how far have we really come since the 15th century?


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